NDSU Extension Service
Q: I bought a house
two years ago. The previous owner had cherry tomatoes. After I planted
my vegetables, I also got more cherry tomatoes. Is there a way to keep
the killer cherry tomatoes from returning this year? (e-mail reference)
A: Presprout them
by solarizing the soil with clear plastic before planting your garden.
Once sprouted, they are easily cultivated out. There should be diminishing
plant populations over the years anyway if you are not planting any
more cherry tomatoes. The solarization should take care of any seed
left in the soil and you can grow your veggies free of invading cherry
Q: I cut a branch
off a paper birch. In the spring, the tree began to drip sap. I panicked
and called the local nursery. They recommended using a pruning seal. I
raced to the hardware store and bought some. I sprayed on the sealer,
but it immediately melted off. I called the nursery again and they suggested
using a pruning tar. Again I raced to the hardware store, but the tar
applied melted off as well. After several tries, I gave up. Using water
and a paper towel, I tried to dab off the residue. I searched the Web
and saw your question-and-answer column and decided to leave the tree
alone. Now, a little over a week later, the cut has a white, lumpy mold
growing on the surface. Should I do anything? (e-mail reference)
A: Shame on the
nursery for telling you to attempt to stop the flow of sap! It won't
work, as you discovered. The mold that is growing is a saprophyte, not
a parasite. This nonthreatening fungus is feeding on the carbohydrate-rich
sap coming from the cut. It will disappear with time. If it is still
present in June and the tree is leafed out, go ahead and make a fresh
cut to facilitate healing. The tree will not bleed at that time. I assure
you the birch tree will not suffer any dire consequences from this early
Q: Is there a grass
seed that will do well with very little water during the summer? (e-mail
A: If you are asking
about a grass seed, the answer is no. If you are asking about a grass
species that you sow in the spring that will tolerate low moisture in
the summer, the answer is yes. In northern regions, that would be fine
or tall fescue and buffalo grass. These should survive, but will go
dormant during extended periods without water.
Q: I dug up some geraniums,
but left dirt around the roots and left some in pots. Now I'm wondering
if I should cut them down even with the dirt and then fertilize. (Marion,
A: Trim the geraniums
back to about 3- to 4-inch stems and then water. Fertilize when you
see new growth emerging.
Q: I am interested
in propagating a grapevine. Would you please mail me a copy of the publication
on this subject? (e-mail reference)
A: You can download
the propagation bulletin faster than I can mail it to you. Go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf.
Go to P. 7 of the publication and take a look at sketch No.16, which
shows simple layering. This is the easiest and fastest way to propagate
Q: Is there is a spray
that will stop apple trees from bearing fruit? I have two apple trees
that are old and diseased. They produce a lot of apples, but aren't in
very good shape. The trees look nice, but make such a mess every year.
A: There are several
sprays that can be used, but have varying rates of success. B-Nine,
Cycocel and Ethrel are the most common sprays. None will be 100 percent
effective and results vary depending on the variety, so don't be discouraged.
Q: I recently found
a bottle of Miracle-Gro liquid houseplant food under my kitchen sink that
I don't even remember buying! I'm guessing it's probably at least five
years old. Is it still good to use on my houseplants or should I toss
it? On an unrelated note, I received some cuttings of a variegated creeping
ficus from a friend. Do you have any information about how to care for
this plant? Most of the information I can find about ficus plants discusses
the large, upright varieties. (e-mail reference)
A: The Miracle-Gro
will be OK. The ficus you have is F. sagittata. Caring for it is the
same as with other ficus plants. Ficus need bright light, but not direct
sun. Water it moderately in spring and summer, but sparingly in winter.
Mist the plant mostly while the central heating system is being used.
Fertilize lightly while new growth is taking place.
Q: We have 12 apricot
trees. When the trees were smaller, the rabbits would eat the trees, so
in the spring the trees would grow from the roots. The trees are about
15 feet tall now, but don’t have a main trunk, only spindly branches
coming from the root. Can I cut all of the branches except one of the
stronger stems so it will grow and produce fruit? The rabbits still eat
the bark as high as they can reach. (Nome, N.D.)
A: Go ahead and
cut all the branches except one strong stem. Next fall, wrap the stem
with paper or some other protection. Spray the portion that is not wrapped
with Hinder or Plantskydd repellent.
Q: We are in the process
of moving and would love to take a few tulips with us (for special reasons).
Can I transfer the tulips into a pot until we move into our new house?
The tulips have started to sprout. (e-mail reference)
A: You can try,
but keep your expectations low. I have found that moving tulips after
they have started growing is a loser, but perhaps you will have better
luck. If possible, try to come back later in the spring, as the foliage
turns yellow, to move them.
Q: I have a raspberry
patch that came across the fence years ago from my neighbor. The patch
used to produce lots of berries, but we've had water restrictions the
last three years that hampered development, but the restrictions have
ended. I used to cut the patch back in the fall, but was told not to.
Now I don't know what is right. I do not know the variety. Do I cut the
patch back in the fall? Since I didn't last fall, can I do it now? What
fertilizer should I be using? Is there a way, except pulling, to get rid
of the bindweed that has come? (e-mail reference)
A: Raspberry plants
produce biennial canes, which means that the first year they are vegetative
only and don't produce fruit. The second year, they flower and produce
fruit, but then die. The plants that fruited for you last year can be
removed because they are dead anyway. Those that were vegetative last
year will or should produce fruit this season. It is best to get the
old canes removed as soon as possible. Most people get around to it
in the fall after a couple of hard frosts. Carefully spraying the bindweed
with Roundup eventually will take it out. The operative word is "carefully"
because the Roundup also could take out the raspberries. A 5-10-5 or
10-10-10 fertilizer applied as new growth starts showing is all that
Q: A couple of years
ago I put a raised flowerbed in my backyard. We brought some top soil
in from our farm and I planted tulips and perennials in it. Last fall
I wanted to plant some more tulips, but the soil was so hard I couldn't
get a hole dug. Is there anything I can add to the soil to loosen it?
I don't want to dig everything up if I don't have to. Any help you can
give me would be appreciated. I have learned more from your columns than
anywhere else. It's the first thing I look for when our paper comes. (Ashley,
A: Sandy loam is
always the best soil to use for raised beds. Add a lot of organic matter,
preferably in the form of sphagnum peat moss. Work the organic matter
into the bed, but don't worry about adding too much. Keep working it
into the soil until it gets to the consistency with which you want to
work. Avoid sand unless you are able to make the proportion of sand
80 percent or better. Thank you for the nice comment about the column.
I appreciate you being a faithful reader and I am glad you find the
Q: This year and last,
you spoke at the Bismarck Garden Club and talked about navigator creeping
red grass seed. I wanted to make sure I wrote down the right name. You
also talked about a place in Fargo that sold the seed. I thought it was
Agassiz. I am going to Fargo next week and would like to pick up the seed.
If you could let me know the place that you mentioned, I would appreciate
it. (e-mail reference)
A: It is navigator
creeping red fescue and can be purchased at Agassiz Seed in West Fargo,
which is at 445 7th St. N.W. Its phone number is (701) 282-8118. It
only sells the seed in 50- pound bags.
Q: I have a peace
lily that I need to transplant. What kind of soil do they need? (e-mail
A: Peace lilies
are tropical plants and need soil that is rich in organic matter. Any
houseplant soil that is high in organic matter would be ideal. Anything
that says on the package that it is good for flowering plants, such
as African violets or gloxinias, would be suitable for peace lilies
Q: I am getting ready
to plant some Colorado blue spruce trees. I am planning on using some
Miracle-Gro for trees and shrubs around the plants. The type I will be
using is supposed to last three months. I used this fertilizer around
some arborvitae that I planted and it seemed to help.
Will this Miracle-Gro fertilizer be OK for blue spruce? I heard there
is something I can put around the trees to make sure they keep their blue
tint. (e-mail reference)
A: Any fertilizer
that will aid arborvitae likewise will help Colorado spruce. As to the
blue tint, I don't know of anything that can be used, unless it is an
Smith, (701) 231-8161, email@example.com
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, firstname.lastname@example.org